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Political Communication & Democratic Innovation

Talking Across Boundaries: Intergroup Communication and Outgroup Attitudes

Recent research shows that narrative storytelling in face-to-face conversations can durably reduce negative outgroup attitudes, even when discussants broach controversial policy issues. However, with respect to mass communication online, there is a growing concern that counter-attitudinal social media messaging can worsen intergroup animosities. We use a pre-registered survey experiment to clarify whether watching a YouTube video displaying a counterargument from an outgroup member impacts outgroup attitudes. We also identify whether the communication style matters for how viewers react to online video messages, testing whether an objectivating, rational-legal communication style worsens viewers' outgroup attitudes and whether a narrative storytelling communication style improves viewers' outgroup attitudes. Confirming expectations, we find that, for certain respondents with stronger opinions, watching a contradictory argument in a rational-legal communication style significantly worsens viewers' attitudes toward the outgroup depicted in the video. Contrary to expectations, we find no evidence that personal storytelling over social media videos improves outgroup evaluations.

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What Can Deliberative Mini-Publics Contribute to Democratic Systems?

Can deliberative mini-publics contribute to deepening the democratic dimensions of electoral democracies? The question is framed in this article using a problem-based approach to democratic theory–to count as democratic, political systems must accomplish three basic functions related to inclusion, communication and deliberation, and decision making. This approach is elaborated with an analysis of a real-world case: a deliberative mini-public with a citizens’ assembly design, focused on urban planning convened in Vancouver, Canada. This example was chosen because the context was one in which the city’s legacy institutions of representative democracy had significant democratic deficits in all three areas, and the mini-public was a direct response to these deficits. It was found that Vancouver’s deliberative mini-public helped policy makers, activists and affected residents move a stalemated planning process forward, and did do so in ways that improved the democratic performance of the political system. Depending on when and how they are sequenced into democratic processes, deliberative mini-publics can supplement existing legacy institutions and practices to deepen their democratic performance.

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Deliberation and Non-Deliberative Communication

The goal of this work is to clarify how certain democratic goods—notably, empowered inclusion and mutual respect—can be both antecedents to and outcomes of successful communication. When exclusion or a lack of basic mutual respect prevent deliberation from happening in the first place, where do the antecedent conditions of empowered inclusion and mutual respect come from? To answer this question, I propose distinguishing between deliberation and non-deliberative communication. More specifically, I offer a typology that distinguishes between deliberation, political communication, non-political reason-giving, and non-political communication. This framework clarifies theoretical disputes and empirical mixed findings in the deliberative democracy literature and offers insight to practitioners and activists interested in using communicative practices to achieve aims related to incentivizing inclusion or promoting mutual respect.

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Deliberation and Equality

Political systems are democratic to the extent that people are empowered to participate in political practices—such as voting, representing, deliberating, and resisting—that contribute to self- and collective rule (Warren 2017). Equality distributes empowerments that enable those affected by collective endeavors to participate in, and influence democratic practices. In this chapter, I explain why equality and inclusion are required before deliberation functions democratically, and I identify institutional arrangements for promoting equality and empowered inclusion in deliberative practices. 

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